FDA Moving Towards Regulation of Tobacco
> 4/3/2008 12:52:45 PM

The FDA regulates antiperspirants, but it has no control over cigarettes, which are linked to the deaths of over 400,000 Americans every year. This oversight has remained difficult to fix because of the political power of the tobacco industry, but now that public opinion has turned decisively against cigarettes, change may be in the air. Yesterday, the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce committee approved a bill that would give the FDA power to oversee all tobacco products.

As the regulatory body showed with its actions through the years, the FDA has felt that tobacco regulation should be one of its responsibility. The group has not been able to secure the legal and monetary power however, to take on such a large industry. In 2000, the FDA made its case in front of the Supreme Court, but was denied regulatory power by a slim 5-4 vote. The only way around this decision is to receive an explicit mandate from the legislative branch.

The House bill required a few compromises to survive, but it retains its purpose and has not been declawed. The bill would grant the power to recall unreasonably unsafe products, withhold permission for new products, and outright ban deceptive products like flavored cigarettes. The largest U.S. tobacco company, Philip Morris, was eventually won over to the cause because of an amendment that subjected foreign products to the same oversight and forbid the FDA from totally banning cigarettes or nicotine. Philip Morris may also have come around for the unstated reason that large companies can more easily meet regulations. There are still many companies opposing the bill, claiming that FDA resources would be stretched too thin, but this objection too was addressed.

Anticipating criticism on financial grounds, the House bill includes a detailed plan to start out funding the new regulation with $85 million and then ramp it up each year until reaching $712 million in the tenth year. This funding will be levied on tobacco companies proportional to their market share, precluding reasonable accusations of unfair burden. This way, tobacco companies will not have to deal with the expense (and the temptation) that comes with research and self-regulation.

The committee's recommendation is expected to pass in the full House as it has already attracted 220 co-sponsors. A Senate committee approved a similar bill last August. While the bill may face more difficult obstacles because of procedural differences in the Senate, it is likely that we will soon see the law go forward and the FDA step in. Public opinion emboldened politicians to get involved, but it is not yet time to relax. Consumer advocacy and other concerned groups need to continue pressing the point that cigarettes, in any form or under any amount of regulation, are dangerous. With increased FDA oversight, we may see continued shifts in smoking behaviors.

No comments yet.

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy